Don’t Punk Out On Political Issues In The Urban Church!

As we listened attentively to our professor explain the negative effects that terminating a pregnancy has on a woman’s psyche in our Introduction to Human Sexuality class, an inquisitive student raised her hand.

Though she rarely fielded questions during her lectures, the professor made an exception to call on the eager undergraduate. “Ma’am,” she said in a mild-mannered tone, “What is your opinion of President Bush’s stance on abortion in our country?”

With a Mona Lisa-esque smile, our instructor said, “The same rules that apply to my dinner table are the same ones that apply to this classroom – we will not discuss politics and religion.

No Politics Talk In The Church

Like my professor, many urban church planters and pastors are enjoined against discussing political issues, especially during intense election seasons, because they stir strong emotions and cause discord with their constituency.

Urban churches are filled with political chatter as the incumbents, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, square off in the November election, and parishioners, holding dissenting and often-contentious viewpoints, have been sharply divided over constitutional lines.

It’s caused a disruption in peace and unity, and many urban planters, especially those in multi-ethnic settings, are searching for ways to address these matters in biblically faithful manners.

Maybe you’ve found yourself in that perplexing position.

If so, here are 3 ways you can address political issues in your church.

1. Speak Proactively on Politics from the Pulpit

With the Republic Convention in Cleveland ending just days ago and the Democratic Convention commencing in the City of Brotherly Love just yesterday, campaign fervor is at an all-time high, providing pastors with an opportune time to address such issues in the local church.

The purpose of this is not to advocate for a particular party or candidate[1], or spew patriotic rhetoric, but to inform the congregation of the politics of the eternal incumbent – Jesus. I highly doubt that Jesus would align with any political party; rather He would align with himself.

His politics vary greatly from the world’s politics. While the misuse of power and the manipulation of truth has become all too common in today’s political climate, Jesus’ politics include the taking care of widows and orphans, advocating for the poor, improving economics, fighting injustice, and honoring those in authority, among other things. Unlike the dishonest politicians of today, Jesus doesn’t manipulate truth but combines conservative and progressive values for his glory.[2]

Jesus’ politics are devoid of blind partisan loyalty. In many ways, He demonstrates conservative values by stressing the importance of being born again and highlights the primacy of the scriptures (i.e. “not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”) These are all hallmarks of right-wing conservative politics.

On the other hand, he leads the way in woman’s rights, affirms the sanctity of all life (born and unborn), and stresses the care of the poor. He did all this while incarnating into the world as a poor ethnic minority in a small, impoverished town called Nazareth and living most of his life as a homeless man, all of which is very progressive.[3]

From my experience, when pastors address the proverbial elephant (and donkey) in the room by tackling political issues experiences more harmony in their congregations.

Why? Because the gospel is the tool that Christ utilizes to help adherent of antipodal governmental factions to recognize their frailty and pursue the perfection of Christ’s comprehensive political agenda.

2. Remind our Congregations that Jesus is in Favor of the Government, and the Scriptures are Replete of Examples.

When wading in on political issues, we should be reminded that God is in favor of the government. In fact, the Bible provides three establishments to promote holistic communal flourishing: biblical family, the church, and the government. Jesus paid taxes and encouraged others to do the same (Mt. 17:24-27), Paul encouraged Christians to submit to governmental authorities who are “ministers of God” (Rom. 13:1-7), and Peter tells believers of the importance of honoring the Roman emperor who persecuted Christians (1Pt. 2:17). [4]

Furthermore, the Bible highlights many God-fearing men and women who served in political office. Samuel & Deborah served as a judge over Israel, Cyrus, who was called “my anointed” served as the King of Persia, Joseph served as the Secretary of State of Egypt, Nehemiah was a trust governmental official of King Artaxerxes of Persia, Daniel served in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. The government, whether theocratic of secular, has always been a part of God’s plan to promote comprehensive flourishing in the world. As the scriptures suggest, God uses the government and those who work in public service to his glory.

3. Encourage Members to “Process” Over Bi-Partisan

Some might be surprised to know that there was political diversity among the disciples. When God step onto the scene as the person of Christ in the first few pages of the Gospel, there was anticipation that the promised Messiah would have the government on his shoulders (Is. 9:6-9). They were hopeful that he’d ignite a political revolution that would take aim at the oppression of Rome.

When Jesus chose Simon the Zealot, who was an adherent of a band of revolutionaries, their interest spiked, but when He also selected Mathew the “Uncle Tom” tax collector who over-charged Jews, their hopes were quickly dashed.

While Mathew would have probably been an advocate of “big government,” providing health care for all citizens and opening wide the door for immigrants, Simon would have been a proponent of “small government.” He would be of the philosophy that the wealthy should become increasingly taxed to cover the expense of the less fortunate.[5]

In other words, Mathew was for the government and Simon was opposed the government. Despite their political views, they were friends whose loyalty to Christ exceeded their earthly agenda.

On a practical level, it’s imperative that we discuss and dialogue with others who don’t lean to our political persuasion and freely discuss politics within the Christian community. If you primarily watch Bill O’Reily, you should have friends that watch Roland Martin, and if you listen to FOX News, you should have friends that listen to MSNBC.

Don’t develop political theories and be divided over governmental issues without discussing the ideas with others who think differently than you. Repent of your unidirectional political leanings and process with others across bi-partisan lines.

Take This With You

Ultimately, brothers and sisters of varying political persuasions can experience unity with each other when their chief allegiance is to Christ, who removed the wall of hostility between conservative from the left, progressive from the far right, and every person in-between.[6]

The differences in our political values should be celebrated peaceably and should not cause division where Christ has created unity.

That’s all I’ve got for now.

Grace and peace.

[1] In fact, it’s illegal to endorse a political party  candidate. See: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/charitable-organizations/the-restriction-of-political-campaign-intervention-by-section-501-c-3-tax-exempt-organizations
[2] Sauls, Scott. Jesus outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides 2015, 21.
[3] Ibn, 14.
[4] Ibn, 5.
[5] Loritts, Bryan C. A Cross-shaped Gospel: Reconciling Heaven and Earth. Chicago: Moody, 2011, (Kindle Location, 612)
[6] Sauls, Jesus, 25.

Ernest Cleo Grant, II

Ernest Cleo Grant, II (@ernestcleogrant) is the Lead Pastor of Epiphany Fellowship Church of Camden, a graduate of Reformed Seminary (D.C.), and is currently completing his Doctorate of Education from Stockton University. He and his wife Sarah have been married for almost a decade and have two children( Amaela and Chancellor). He's an avid reader, a community advocate, and has bylines in The Witness, Christianity Today, The Star-Ledger, Desiring God, and other publications

One comment

  • Thank you for this. In our UK context we have been addressing the impact of the recent Brexit result both from the pulpit and on Faithroots.net as this is huge for people’s lives. Some are really distressed by the result as they see politics taking an undesired turn, others especially on our urban estates voted leave out of anger and frustration at distant politicians. A lot in our context as immigrants were directly affected but had no say. It has been wonderful though to keep reminding all that King Jesus was sovereign before, during and now after the result and this does not change. Election days are big days that matter but we look to two days that matter much more, back to the day when Jesus died for us and forward to the day when he will come again

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